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400-level geology course information

400-Level course structure

  • All students must enrol in GEOL 401 (Current Topics and Advanced Methods in Geoscience worth 20 points)
  • Honours students must enrol in 2 other papers (worth 20 pts each) in addition to GEOL 490 (BSc Hons Research Project worth 60 pts)
  • PGDipSci and MSc students must enrol in 3 other papers (worth 20 pts each) in addition to GEOL 480 (PGDipSci Dissertation) or GEOL 495 (1st year MSc), both worth 40 pts, to satisfy their relevant degree requirements
  • Elective Papers are listed on this page
Summary of 400 level courses
Course Core papers Elective papers
BSc(Hons) GEOL401, GEOL 490 2 other 400-level papers
PGDipsci GEOL401, GEOL 480 3 other 400-level papers
MSc (1st year) GEOL401, GEOL 495 3 other 400-level papers

400-Level research projects



1. Arrange a project and a supervisor

Projects include those on the list on this page or others arranged through discussion with a supervisor. If you are from outside Otago and want to arrange a project then email potential supervisors directly to discuss possible projects. If unsure who to email make contact through Dee Roben (

2. Fill out the intentions form

All students intending to undertake 400-level next year (Hons, Masters or Postgraduate diploma) should aim to have provisional projects assigned by the end of November. Please fill out the 400 Level intentions form as soon as possible (even if your project isn't finalised).

3. Enrol at the University

4. Complete field safety and logistics form prior to fieldwork

Prior to any fieldwork taking place you must submit a field safety and logistics form and follow the other procedures for fieldwork health and safety:

Elective Papers:

Our elective papers are split into two topics each worth 50% of the paper. One topic is taught in semester 1 and the other topic is taught in semester 2 (except for GEOL450 in 2018 where both topics are taught in semester 1). All assessment for each topic is contained within the semester in which it is taught. There will be an exam at the end of each semester for each topic.

GEOL 421 Sedimentary and Basin Studies

Topic 1: Quaternary climate (CMM)
Interpretation of past climate, environmental, and oceanographic change from marine and terrestrial sedimentary records. Discussion of the common techniques, proxies and records used to reconstruct climatic and oceanographic change.

Topic 2: (Title to be confirmed but will relate to sedimentary and basin studies).

GEOL 422 Geochemistry, Petrology, Volcanology

Topic 1: Isotopes and igneous geochemistry (JMP, MB)
Application of isotopes and geochemistry to understanding igneous sources, systems, magma mixing and fractionation, using the Dunedin Volcano as an example.

Topic 2: Volcanology (JDLW)
Subaqueous & subglacial volcanism, volcanic fields, mafic eruptions, maars and diatremes, explosive volcanism, volcanic systems

GEOL 427 Paleobiodiversity, Paleooceanography and Stratigraphy

Topic 1: Paleobiodiversity (REF)
Sessions will emphasise the Mesozoic and Cenozoic of New Zealand and adjacent parts of Gondwana and the Southern Ocean, and the origins of the New Zealand vertebrate fauna. Case studies will be drawn from fish, reptiles, birds and mammals depending on the interests of students and staff.

Topic 2: Paleoceanography (CRR)
Topics include stable isotope geochemistry and diatom micropaleontology in marine sediments with focus on the evolution of the Antarctic cryosphere.

GEOL 430 Structural Geology and Tectonics

Topic 1: Faults and shear zones (SAFS, DJP)
Students will integrate field, microstructural and experimental data to address topics such as the structure and mechanics of fault zones, fluid flow in faults, earthquake rupture, creep in rocks and ice, and shear zone processes.

Topic 2: Neotectonics and earthquake hazard (MS)
Seismic hazard modelling, seismotectonics, earthquake statistics and tectonic geomorphology.

GEOL 431 Geophysics

Topic 1: Seismology (ARG)
Advanced knowledge in a broad range of applied geophysical theory, methods and techniques, with focuses on controlled-source and earthquake seismology

Topic 2: Paleomagnetism and its applications (CO)
Basic to advanced concepts in paleomagnetism and geological applications, ranging from chronostratigraphy, volcanology, structural geology, and environmental studies.

GEOL 450 Special Topic 1 (Semester 1)

(note: this paper is taught in Semester 1 and has the same points as our full year papers(20pts))

Topic 1: Deep Earth chemistry (JMS)
Physical and chemical composition of the deep Earth. Emphasis will be on using advanced petrological techniques, such as a scanning electron microscopy, to interpret petrological processes.

Topic 2: Environmental geology short course (CRL Energy)
Geochemical aspects of mining waste focusing on the geochemistry of acid rock drainage and heavy metals in the environment including soils and water.